Saint Francis announces expansion of women's facility

Friday, October 1, 2010
Dr. James A. Schell, vice president of medical affairs at Saint Francis Medical Center, takes a sledge hammer to a wall during a ground breaking ceremony and news conference to announce the expansion of Saint Francis' Womancare facility on Thurs. Sept. 30, 2010. (Kristin Eberts)

Saint Francis Medical Center is investing $2.1 million in upgrading its women's health services to fight breast cancer, hospital president and CEO Steven C. Bjelich announced Thursday.

Wearing pink hard hats, Bjelich and other hospital officials took turns whacking the wall of its Womancare center with a sledgehammer as a symbolic start to the construction.

The renovation and expansion will provide a range of care in one location including risk assessments, prevention counseling, screenings, biopsies, support and education.

Nine construction employees have been added to complete the expansion of the Womancare center, set to open in May.

In the last 11 years, Saint Francis has steadily added to its medical center, going from 200,000 square feet to more than 1 million square feet once its new Heart Hospital and Cancer Institute opens in July 2011, Bjelich said. Its employment has grown from 1,100 to 2,500 during the same period.

A total of 1,855 square feet will be added to the existing women's health area on the first floor of the Healing Arts Center building, bringing the Womancare center's total square footage to 6,357. The expansion will add five exam rooms, a procedure room, a nurses station and expanded waiting room.

"Today, one in eight American women will get invasive breast cancer. One in 33 will die from the disease," Bjelich said. "Saint Francis wants to improve these statistics, and I believe this expansion is the next step in the advancement of breast care in Cape Girardeau."

Other benefits of the new Womancare facility will be a full-time radiologist to provide real-time mammography results, immediate retesting to eliminate rescheduling and an on-site surgeon for on-the-spot consultations. The facility will continue to offer bone density testing and hormone replacement therapy.

Oncologist Dr. Stan Sides spoke about how the Womancare center got its start at Saint Francis modeled after the University of Missouri Hospital in Columbia, Mo.

"In 1984 we were distressed by the low percentage of women getting mammograms. At the time, they were quite expensive and it was a time-consuming process that led to large numbers of women just not getting them," Sides said.

In 1985, Saint Francis opened its Womancare center as a way to give women more choices and opportunity for mammograms. During the early years, the center saw seven to 10 women per day, but since opening has screened more than 100,000 women, Sides said.

As part of Saint Francis' affiliation with the M.D. Anderson Physicians Network, its 23 physicians have access to treatments developed by the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

"I cannot stress enough the importance of early detection," said oncologist Dr. Olivia Aranha. "The earlier breast cancer is detected the better the outcome."

The Womancare Center expansion announcement kicks off the hospital's Pink Up Cape campaign, a monthlong effort to increase breast cancer awareness.

Beginning today, Saint Francis' exterior will be lit with pink lights and employees will wear pink exam gloves and pink scrubs. Advertising materials will also focus on the pink theme in support of the cause.

According to the American Cancer Society, excluding cancers of the skin, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, accounting for nearly 1 in 4 cancers diagnosed in American women.

A "Pink Parade" video, featuring breast cancer survivors, Saint Francis employees and families, Southeast Missouri State University athletes and musicians, and other community members, will be posted online at and on YouTube and Facebook.

Other events include the Dig for Life Kickoff on Oct. 8, RENEW for Women on Oct. 20, Dig for Life Pink Out Night on Oct. 26 and the Saint Francis Auxiliary Pink Pumpkin Bake Sale on Oct. 29. More information on these events may be found at or by calling 573-331-5877.


Pertinent Address:

211 Saint Francis Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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